INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Hello! JUNE 13, 1992 - by Brian Aris
THE WEDDING OF DAVID BOWIE AND IMAN
With everybody thinking that the ceremony was going to be held in Mustique, David Bowie and Iman's wedding was closely guarded secret until the day itself - when Florence came to a virtual standstill.
On the morning of the big day one local newspaper had run a speculative story - and well before four o'clock in the afternoon, when the service was to begin, hundreds of Florentines lined the streets of the historic city.
But even if the news had not been leaked, the commotion caused by police sirens and flashing lights would have alerted the population to the fact that something important was up. With the typical Italian flair for creating drama and excitement, a helicopter had been circling the Saint James Episcopal Church in the morning. And when the bride and groom travelled, separately, to the church, they were escorted by police cars and motorcycles speeding through red lights and causing traffic jams in the city.
Florence, which he visits at every opportunity just to admire its art works and architecture, is one of David's very favourite places. And the couple, intent on keeping the occasion simple and private, decided a few months ago that this would be the perfect spot for their special day. But they gave no clues, and families and guests were sworn to secrecy.
Iman had been in Florence for a while, but David didn't arrive in Italy until mid-day Friday - the day before the wedding. He had spent the previous weekend in Mustique with his son Joe - from his earlier marriage to Angie Bowie - who was celebrating his twenty-first birthday.
Upholding tradition the couple spent Friday night in separate bedrooms. As well as most of their guests, they were staying at the luxurious Villa Massima hotel. Originally the seventeenth-century mansion of a noble family, the hotel is situated in the Tuscan hills overlooking the Arno river and is about ten miles from the Saint James church where the ceremony took place.
Saturday was the day David and Iman had been dreaming of ever since he proposed to her with a song during a boat ride on the Seine last October. It was grey and rainy, but in true storybook fashion, the sky began to clear as the magic hour approached - and when they emerged from the church after their wedding, the sun was shining brightly.
David arrived at the church an hour early to supervise the candle and flower arrangements with the six ushers - while Iman punctually appeared five minutes before the ceremony was due to start.
What was happening inside the Saint James church and what was happening outside was a different as night and day.
Up to a thousand fans had congregated at the front of the building to see the arrival of the bride and groom and many of them pushed against the gates trying to get in.
Their close friend Yoko Ono, one of the sixty-eight guests, got a taste of Italian enthusiasm when she was nearly swept away by the crowds as she got off the bus that was used as transport between the hotel and the church.
With the mass of people outside jostling for a better view and the carabinieri (Italian policemen) and security guards pushing to keep them at bay, the commotion threatened to disrupt the tranquility that Iman and David so strongly desired. At one point a group did manage to open the gate, but they were successfully held back by the guards.
But although at some moments - particularly as the newlyweds were about to sign the register - the racket outside could be clearly heard indoors, the scene inside was peaceful - and immensely moving.
Only the couple's closest friends and family had been invited. David's mother, Margaret Jones, was there, as well as the singer's son Joe who acted as best man. Both of Iman's parents - Marion, who wore a magnificent traditional African costume, and Mohamed Abdulmajid - were present, together with her brothers Elias and Feisal, although, sadly, her sister Nadia was not able to make it because her visa was not ready in time.
As well as Yoko Ono, guests included Brian Eno and his wife Anthea, Thierry Mugler who designed David's suit, Eric Idle of Monty Python and his wife Tanya. Bono, of U2, missed his flight from Dublin and therefore the service, although he arrived in time for the photo line-up that preceded the reception.
This was not a celebrity event - these were the only famous faces in the pews. Several of the guests were childhood friends, such as Geoff McCormack, who has known David since they were seven years old, and who read Psalm 121 during the service. David's cousin Kristina Amadeus read from Corinthians.
Iman's maid of honour was her best friend Bethann Hardison, also a model like the exquisite Somalian-born bride. The chief usher was David's publicist Alan Edwards.
The intimate tone that pervaded the occasion, once removed from the excitement of the fans outside, was set by a small group of Italian musicians who played classical music as the guests filed in.
The first breathtaking moment came when Iman was led down the aisle by her father, former Ambassador Mohamed Abdulmajid. She looked spectacular in an oyster dress with a long train designed by Herve Leger and with her hair arranged by Teddy Antolin. Teddy was a very special guest - in a way responsible for what was happening that day, because it was he who introduced David and Iman at a dinner party two years ago.
It was with a song that David proposed to Iman - a rendition of Doris Day's April In Paris. And he again made a musical tribute to his great love on this very special day - in an even more personal manner: David himself composed the music for the event - an atmospheric composition, soothingly beautiful. The strains of a saxophone alternated with exquisite solos and keyboards creating a mesmerising effect on all.
Everyone who has known David and Iman has remarked on how deeply they are in love. And although the couple had already celebrated a registry wedding in Lausanne on April 24, they were so emotionally overwhelmed during this tender, traditional service in Florence that at one point David was on the verge of tears and Iman looked as if she might faint.
After the fifty-minute service the entire congregation returned to the Villa Massa hotel and David and Iman retired to their room - now both together - to rest and change for the reception that evening.
Their drive back to the hotel, in a dark blue Mercedes Benz, had been like their arrival at the church - with a police escort and speeding throughout the traffic lights in a flurry of sirens as crowds of onlookers clapped, waved and called out their names, and bemused tourists wondered what was going on.
In the evening the newlyweds appeared downstairs for a picture session for their photo albums, which took place in one of the halls in the Villa Massima, and at 8.30 they adjourned next door for the formal dinner. There, David introduced Joe as his handsome son, and in a short speech, Joe stood up to say, I wish David and Iman as much happiness as I'm sure all their friends out there do. Then the guests - the same ones who had attended the service - got on with their wining and dining.
The guests were seated at eight tables. David's mother Margaret, who sat at the groom's table, was clearly delighted at her son's happiness. During the dinner she revealed that her favourite singer - after her son! - was Nat King Cole, and also that she was a fan of U2. She had earlier insisted on having her photograph taken with Bono!
Dinner was followed by a splendid fireworks display over the Arno which was viewed from the hotel's terrace, and the night ended with a disco.
David and Iman left the party at around 1am. The next day, Sunday, they drove off to Rome from where they flew off on their honeymoon - a full month at an exotic, secret destination in the Far East.
David And Iman Talking To Us Of Their Plans And Life Together
We spoke to the happy couple on the morning after the wedding.
When did you first meet each other?
David: I never really 'met' Iman. I saw her about three or four times at different social functions. Once was in the theatre when we leaned over several people and shook hands. I then saw her briefly at a gig in Los Angeles, and so on. Both of us had just, in the last few months, ended previous relationships. For my part, I felt that was it, for me - I didn't want, need or desire any more permanent relationships. Then, by chance, a mutual friend invited us both for a dinner on October 14, 1990 - so that's when we actually met and talked.
Iman: I was a big fan of David's ever since I moved from Africa to New York. I was always sent VIP tickets to see his shows and invited to go backstage to meet the rock god and go partying. Being a big fan, I always saw the shows, but never went backstage to meet him or go to parties.
I always played hard to get and that's how I made him fall in love with me!
What was your first impression of Iman, David?
I guess what everyone's is - that she's terribly elegant, very dignified and has a great sense of self. I mean that she's her own person and not swayed by other's opinions.
For about a week or two, I was a bit cautious because I have a silly sense of humour and I was scared it might put her off me. But when she started laughing at some of my antics, I realised she was a real fun-loving person. And I think humour has become one of our strongest bonds.
Now one of the things we try do to nurture our relationship is, on every 14th - the date we met - we always have an anniversary dinner. If we're not together, we send flowers to each other, or a note or card. It's just another building block in our relationship to show it is alive and well and a real thing. It is terribly important to help a relationship along.
Why did you choose to get married in Italy?
David: We both have very strong ties with Italy. I have always been a huge fan of Italian art, especially of the Renaissance period. And there is a quality of life here that you rarely find in another country - life itself, how you spend every second of your time, is more important than your career. And because of the really hectic careers we both have, this is a very important change for us.
Iman: Italy and Italians are fun. And Italian was my first foreign language. I speak Italian better than English - Somalia was an Italian colony, and I was taught the language by Italians.
I have done a lot of modelling in Italy and often visited the country, and one of my favourite places was Florence. And it was in Florence that David and I spent our first summer holiday together. We had a wonderful time. For beauty, art and the people - and for good capucchino - Florence is really it.
How was that first holiday?
David: We took a six-week boat trip up and down the Italian coast. Under those circumstances, in such a claustrophobic situation as being on a boat, you really get to know somebody. By the the end of those six weeks, you are either passionately in love or you can't stand the sight of each other. But for us, it just worked out.
We fell more and more in love as the trip went along, and we ended up in Florence and said this is our own little Shangri-La - the place we adore more than anywhere else we have been so far.
Has the fact that both you and Iman are of different religions created any problems with the wedding?
David: No problems. I'm not a religious person - I'm a spiritual person. God plays a very important part in my life - I look to him a lot and He is the cornerstone of my existence - even more as I get older. But it is a one-to-one relationship with God. I believe man develops a relationship with his own God. I tend to judge a man or a woman by their actions - the way they are with me and the way they are with their friends.
Iman: We don't have any problems. I don't think there is anything that can come between my and David's unity. Getting married did not convert me from a Muslim into a Christian. I am not a religious person - but I do come from a religious family and the most important thing to me is that I have their blessing. And I have their total blessing. What matters to them is that we are happy and have faith in each other and in God.
David, what made you compose the music for the ceremony?
We both loathed Here Comes The Bride, which is one of the least likeable bits of music that I have ever heard in my life. So for the entrance of the bride we choose a tranquil piece of music called Evening Gathering, by a Bulgarian group.
And I wanted it to be a personalised service, so Iman allowed me to take the lead and write music for the rest of the service - which I did. So I wrote several pieces of instrumental music that I felt were in keeping with the kind of service we wanted.
Who designed your dress, Iman?
The French designer Herve Leger. I met him years ago when he was starting out and working for other designers. Then I met him again when he began working on his own two years ago, and I've been very impressed with his clothes. I wanted something very simple, elegant, no frills, no fashion, no gimmicks. Something that would outlast anything.
Who designed your suit, David?
I asked my good friend Thierry Mugler, who has been designing my suits for a good few years now, to do a variation on traditional tails. He has done a delightful job. I think it looks quite dashing. I know Mugler likes it, but Mugler likes everything he designs and nine times out of ten, so do I.
Which friends were at the wedding? Surprisingly, there weren't too many famous faces at your wedding.
David: We just went through the celebrity book of LA and picked out the most famous people we had never met and sent them all off to Mustique! Seriously, the people who actually attended nobody would ever have heard of, because they are literally our friends. Both Iman and I, believe it or not, have very few friends who are actually in our professions. There are the odd exceptions - Thierry came, and Herve, and on my side Yoko, Bono and Brian Eno. But the rest have been people from our past who have meant a lot to us. And, of course, our immediate family.
You went through a civil ceremony in April, so in fact you already were married when you had your church wedding.
David: We did all the bureaucracy and all the paper signing but we didn't really feel married. I know the forms were signed, but at the back of our minds our real marriage, sanctified by God, had to happen in a church in Florence. The civil wedding was just Iman and myself and two witnesses.
Both your families were present here in Florence.
David: "They had never met before and it was nice to see they got on with each other. It was lovely to have everyone there. It was a real family thing."
Iman: When I called my parents to tell them I was getting married and the wedding was going to be in Florence, they said there was no way they were going to miss it.
Because I've lived away from Somalia so long, I thought it was just going to be my mother and father who came. But it was also my two brothers, my aunt, my uncle, my cousin...
So it was a big African family gathering. And as you know, everyone in the Western world wears tuxes and subdued short dresses for church weddings. But with them being from Somalia, there was ceremonial colour, African magenta red. I was happy to see the juxtaposition of cultures.
And it was fun because my parents speak Italian very well. My father told me he went to school in Florence. So there you go - Florence again.
David: I was absolutely privileged and honoured to have my son Joe ask if he could be my best man, which I think was probably a first. He was absolutely terrific and he didn't lose any of the rings!
David, where will you live now that you are married?
I promised that after we got married I would provide Iman with a fine home. Several, actually. The main house, what we really consider our main home, is a lovely chateau in Switzerland. We also have a delightfully whimsy exotic Indonesian-style house in the Caribbean and, I guess you could call it more of a work apartment, in Los Angeles, which we occasionally use. But I think primarily we will be living within each other's affections.
How will marriage affect your careers?
Having now been with each other close on two years, I can't see any great difference in the future. We have decided, basically, that if one of us is working, then the one who isn't will join the other. And if we are both working at the same time, then we will both work through it.
David: It is a very difficult situation for most couples, and I don't think it will be any less difficult for us. The difficulty is in being apart - only because we love being with each other so much. But we seem to make up for that by being on the phone to each other at least ten times a day. I think our greatest expense in life is phone calls. And of course Iman's jewellery, which goes without saying! And my clothes.
Iman has taught me how to dress very sophisticatedly, in a very simple fashion, and terribly expensively, which is a whole new approach to fashion for me. I used to go gaudy and cheap, so this is quite a turn-around for me!
What about children?
Iman: It has been proven that parenthood and career can be done, but one of the parents always makes sacrifices because the child cannot just be left with a nanny. I think the priorities change because I will never be able to say I will leave my career to be David Bowie's wife - because this is not a career, it is a full time job. But for my own fulfilment, as a person and for my own interest as a human being, I don't want to feel that I am not independent any more just because I have children. But priorities do change. When I do have my children hopefully, God willing, they will be the priorities. It is as simple as that. David: I think we have both made different kinds of commitments in terms of career. For me it is relatively easy to continue my work which, as a writer, can be done almost anywhere. So, say Iman was filming in Africa, it causes me no problem to be able to go over there and continue writing and still be with her. I don't like touring for more than a maximum of four months a year. The days of touring for ten to twelve months are over and, stamina wise, I don't think I could do that any more. Interest-wise, I have never been enamoured with tours.
Where are you going for your honeymoon?
David: We want to go to somewhere we both have a heavy hankering for. The Far East. We are going to take an extensive honeymoon, and we are going to explore many wonderful lands while we are out there. And bring back lots of fabulous clothes - at least I will!
I've never met a woman who shops as little as Iman does. She can be in and out of a shop in three minutes. It's rather refreshing actually.
You have both been married before - how did that experience influence you?
David: For my part I got married when I was very young. It was an unfortunate marriage and it didn't work out even remotely. The most glorious thing that came out of my last marriage was my wonderful son Joe whom I love dearly. And, fortunately, all through my indiscretions, obsessions, addictions and whatever else went wrong in my life, we have been able to form a mutual tie.
As he gets older - he has just become twenty-one - our relationship grows daily. We are father and son in the best and nicest possible way. I don't want to slip into the cliché of saying that we are friends. We are father and son and that's how it should be and it works well.
As for marriage, I don't think I ever really had what we could call a proper marriage. This for me is so exciting and so invigorating. I have such great expectations of our future together. I have never been so happy.
Iman: I didn't expect to be married again because I didn't want to. I have a daughter Zuleika, who is thirteen years old, and I love her very, very dearly. I leave the past to the past. I had a very happy marriage while it lasted.
This relationship with David is taking me totally by surprise, a wonderful surprise. I have found my soul-mate in him, my friend. In him I have found my lover, my companion. The person I was looking for - my other half. I hope everyone in this world finds their other half as I did mine.